Tips for Employee Onboarding in the Remote Era, November 5, 2021, Ali Knapp

The last two years have changed the workforce like never before. Back in 2019, remote work wasn’t considered an obtainable benefit across the board. Fast forward to 2021, many expect it to be part of their work experience, and a sustainable part of the future of work moving forward.

The decision to implement a remote or hybrid workforce has left companies to work through the challenges that come along with it. Onboarding employees was difficult when people worked largely in offices, but now many companies are starting from scratch to develop their approach. Luckily for employers, there have been various companies over the last few years who already mastered the remote work approach. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel since we can look at who’s already identified and overcome the challenges.

Don’t Let Analysis Paralysis Take Over

For all organizations—especially the ones tackling remote work options for the first time—putting together an onboarding program can be overwhelming. There are opinions all over the place about the best way to do things. On top of that, there are additional moving pieces, including data points and people’s emotions, that need to be taken into consideration prior to these decisions being made.
While all those factors cause stress and cloud judgement, do your best to prioritize “minimum viable content,” or the most critical pieces. It’s impossible to do everything at once, so focus on the process in a phase-by-phase approach. That doesn’t mean limiting the available content either. You can create a discoverable option so they can consume at their own pace. Having the right tools for execution will make or break the overall effectiveness of the program.

The best way to break this down would be by time and level. For example, pace it out over four weeks and do an orientation of the company and then of the new hire’s team. You can coordinate the process with carefully timed breaks and opportunities for individual learning so that new employees have time to process the information without feeling drained and overwhelmed.

Aim For a Clear and Consistent Approach

One of the most frustrating things for newcomers is experiencing mixed messages. One person is training them to do something one way, and the next trainer is telling them something different. It becomes difficult for them to know who to trust or what the real right way is to conquer a task. Since onboarding is your first opportunity to build trust with your employees, make sure things are clear and consistent.

The communication barrier is especially difficult during remote onboarding. Often, training sessions and questions take place through a video chat or an instant messaging system and leave much up to interpretation. It can also feel awkward to reach out with questions as opposed to just asking the person sitting next to you. Since it’s easy to assume the worst with these types of interactions, being friendly and clear will help newcomers feel known and acknowledged. An added bonus is if you continue with regular check-ins since it gives the opportunity to ask questions and build rapport.

Make it Digestible

As the old saying goes, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!” Onboarding is chock-full of new information—not only about the job but also learning about your new company and coworkers. Recently, Bagel Brands ran their analytics and found that around two minutes and 36 seconds is where users typically began losing interest in training videos. In order to maintain focus, it’s critical to break up content into short, digestible pieces.

While having a structured onboarding process is important, don’t forget to set aside time for questions and conversations. Research shows that loneliness is a common issue for remote workers, so there needs to be a priority on relationship building. It’s critical that companies give all employees time to socialize—even virtually—and create relationships in order to strengthen employee retention and collaboration.

Put Your Best Foot Forward

Onboarding is your first opportunity to show your employee that they made the right choice. If it’s not done well, both parties suffer. Your company could experience more turnover if you fail to engage new hires, which can lead to underserved customers and a higher customer churn rate.

When the convenience of relying on those sitting next to you is removed from onboarding, the processes in place must be solid. Otherwise, you may quickly see a lack in company culture or customer experience. Make sure you have the best technology in place in order to share in the human experience that will create bonds and strengthen teamwork throughout your organization.

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